Belonging ("I'll Be Home for Christmas")(John 14:1-3, 18-23)
Belonging (“I'll Be Home for Christmas”)
John 14:1-3, 18-23
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
December 16th, 2018
I. “No Place Like Home”
1942 and 1943 were busy years for the singer Bing Crosby. As we heard a couple of weeks ago, in 1942 he released the song “White Christmas”, which went on to become the best-selling single of all time. But the very next year, he recorded another song, written specifically for U.S. soldiers serving overseas during World War II. The song is simple, with only forty words in the original recording. It goes like this:
I'll be home for Christmas, You can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe, And presents by the tree.
Christmas eve will find me, Where the love light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas, If only in my dreams.
Like “White Christmas”, this song, “I'll Be Home for Christmas” was one of the most requested songs whenever Crosby toured with the USO during the war. In light of those lyrics, it's not hard to understand why. In fact, that longing described in the song was the precise reason the BBC banned the song from its airwaves during the war, fearing that it might hurt morale among the British troops.
Of course that longing for home, that joy and comfort of be-longing, is found in many other songs including one that goes like this:
Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
'Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home
Is that how you feel about being “home for the holidays”? Well, one of the things that God's word does for us is help us to stay sober-minded about the reality of wherever and whoever we call “home”. Songs like these do an excellent job of highlighting the many good things, the many blessings of belonging.
But God's word also reminds us about the disappointments, the divisions, the deception, and every other difficulty, even death, that can and often does taint the reality of “home”. “Home” can be hard. “Home” can change. “Home” can sometimes be anything but “sweet”. How many GIs came back from the battlefield after WWII or Korea or Vietnam or Iraq, only to face a new kind of battle at home?
While every “home” can be full of that blessing of belonging, there is no home immune from the effects of sin. But come to think of it, there is one exception to that tragic reality. Turn over this morning, if you haven't already, to John 14.
II. The Passage: “Make Our Home with Him” (14:1-3, 18-23)
This morning we are going to look at two passages from this chapter. I'd love to read the entire chapter. In fact, I'd love for us to read all of chapters 12-17. But with the time we do have, I think looking together at verses 1-3 and 18-23 is the best way for us to tackle this longing for what we call be-longing. What connects these two passages? The word “home”.
So first, vs. 1-3... we will discover here is that Jesus is speaking about...
1. Belonging in the Everlasting (vs. 1-3)
On the evening before his crucifixion, look at what Jesus tells his followers about home:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father's house
are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Notice how this passage begins: “Let not your hearts be troubled”. Why would his followers be feeling “troubled”? Well look back at 13:33. Jesus told them...
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come.'”
The rest of chapter 13 reveals that this announcement of his departure was understandably troubling to his disciples. From their perspective, he belonged with them, just as they belonged with him. In so many powerful ways, these men had found a “home” in following, in fellowship with, Jesus.
And Jesus is affirming that in 14:1-3. That's why he wants to comfort them in light of the Father's plan; specifically, he wants to comfort them in light of the “Father's house”. There is only one home immune from the effects of sin; only one home untouched by the disappoint-ments, the divisions, the deception, by the difficulties of our cursed world; untouched even by death. It's the “Father's house”.
And lest the disciples believe that only Jesus has a room there (and maybe Abraham and Moses and David as well), their Teacher emphasizes here the blessing of belonging that is going to be theirs: “In my Father's house are many rooms”, literally, “there are many places to dwell”, “there are many places to call 'home'”. Again, if there was any doubt about who those rooms belonged to, Jesus makes it clear: “I go to prepare a place for you.”
Brothers and sisters, think for a minute about the beauty of this image. The “Father's house” is an image about belonging. Any blessing from belonging that we experience in this life is only a foretaste of what is to come in the next life. Ultimate belonging. Perfect belonging. Incorruptible, and irrevocable belonging.
Your longing to belong right now, your hunger for “home” (as the song talks about), was meant to be fully satisfied in the Father's presence.
Yes, Jesus might be taken from them, But this promise could not be taken from them. Jesus reassured them of this in light of his departure: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
He would go on, 3 chapters later, to pray for this very thing: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” [John 17:24]
Later, the Apostle Paul would speak about this same themes: But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ... [Philippians 3:20]
He would remind the Corinthians, Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. [II Corinthians 5:8]
But, there's more. Not only does Jesus reassure his disciples about belonging in the everlasting. He also reassures them about...
2. Belonging in the Every Day (vs. 18-23)
If you drop down to verse 18, look at what Jesus goes on to tell them about “home”...
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Right away, in verse 18, we are talking again about belonging. Do you see that? As Jesus talked about leaving, these men must have been wrestling with some feelings of abandonment. And after Jesus left, those feelings would probably come back. But Jesus is taking preemptive steps here, isn't he. “I will not leave you as orphans”. Sure, talking about the next life can and should bring us hope in this life. But God gives us even more than that.
Jesus told them, and tells us, “because I live, you will also live”. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means resurrection life for us in the everlasting, and newness of life for us right now. And that newness of life now is first and foremost about a new relationship overflowing with love. Verse 21... “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Jesus is telling them, “the new life I'm making possible for you means I will always be with you. Of course, the disciples are confused. Finally the other Judas speaks up, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” That is, if you are leaving this world, how will you be with us... just us?
And that's where Jesus brings them back to this idea of “home”. Verse 23...
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
It's not clear when you read these passages in English. But in the original Greek language in which they were written, this word “home” in verse 23 is the same word we find in verse 2. In verse 2, it's translated “rooms”. In my Father's house are many rooms...
“There are many places to dwell...there are many places to call home”. Do you see what Jesus is telling them here? I am leaving to prepare a place for you, a place of everlasting belonging. But I am also promising you a place everyday belonging. You see, for those who embrace Jesus Christ in faith, your future place in the home of your Father can be tasted in the present, because our Father has first made his home in you.... both the Father and the Son. No matter where you roam, through Jesus, you are, in a sense, always home.
And if that weren't enough, look at the verses immediately preceding our second passage... John 14:16, 17...
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dwelling even now with those who believe; a foretaste of our home in eternity. Everyday belonging in light of everlasting belonging. Isn't that astounding? Does that comfort you? Does it reassure you? Does it thrill you?
But how? How is any of this possible for sinner like us?
III. It Began with a Tent
Did you know it all began with a tent? Before the house there was a tent. No, I'm not talking about how some pioneer family lived for the first few months on their homestead. I'm talking about the story of the Father's house. It began with a tent.
We talked all about that tent when we studied Leviticus. It was called the Tent of Meeting, and it was the first time, after Eden, that God dwelt with his people. But like most things in Leviticus, that tent was ultimately a symbol of the substance to come. Therefore, it shouldn't be surprising when we read this in the opening chapter of John's gospel...
And the Word became flesh and [lit: tented] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Did you know that John chapter 1 gives us the biggest and broadest version of the Christmas Story in all the Bible? Shockingly, the Creator became a creature. The One who began all things took on a beginning among all things. Why? The eternal Son of God came to dwell with us, so that we might dwell with him as sons and daughters of God throughout eternity. That is the stunning, true story of Christmas.
It all began with a tent. And the glory that shone from the Tent of Meeting among the Israelites, that same glory was seen in a tent of human flesh. God became a man. And that man described in John 1 was the same man we meet in John 14; the man describing for his followers both the everlasting and the everyday belonging he would make possible.
Again, in light of his identity, it's not surprising that we should read this exchange in vs 5, 6...
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father [either to his house then or his presence with you now] except through me.”
Jesus could make such an exclusive statement for two reasons: first, because he was the God-man, both heavenly and human, the Word of God made flesh with man. But second, he could tell Thomas (and us) that he was “the way, and the truth, and the life” because he really did to “prepare a place” for us.
What did you think about when you heard Jesus say that in verse 2, and then repeat it in verse 3? Did you picture Jesus as part of some heavenly construction crew as they remodeled the Father's house (“okay, boys, we're gonna need a billion more rooms”)? Or did you think about Jesus as a divine decorator, putting the finishing touches on your heavenly apartment? Or maybe we should think of him as more of a supernatural janitor?
Actually, that janitor image is not far off the mark. You see, when Jesus said he was leaving, he knew his departure would initially involve... his betrayal, his arrest, his condemnation, his beating, his humiliation, his crucifixion, and his death. Brothers and sisters, friends, when Jesus said I go to prepare a place for you, he was talking about going to the cross; about going to die. And just a janitor cleans, so too was Jesus doing a work of cleansing.
Paul would later describe the Father and Son's work of preparation in these terms:
For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:21)
Or to put it in terms consistent with our theme this morning, we can now belong to the Father because Jesus was rejected by the Father on our behalf. It was the rejection we deserved. He was condemned for our sins, that we might be set free. He was punished that we might be spared. But not only spared... that we might belong.
Longing to be wherever and with whomever you call “home” is not a bad thing, especially this time of year. But that “home” is not an ultimate thing. It's a good thing, but it's a corruptible thing. It's a good thing, but it's a temporary thing. It's not an ultimate thing. But as we've seen this morning, the “Father's house” is different. His “home” with us now, with us his children, is different. It is an ultimate thing. It is “home” in the fullest sense of everything that word represents. This Christmas, are you longing for that home? Look to Jesus.
In Colossians 3:1–4, Paul gives some practical advice to any who long for the Father's house:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
More in Pop Christmas
December 23, 2018Satisfaction ('All I Want for Christmas is You')(Psalm 73:23-26)
December 9, 2018Happiness ("It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year")(Nehemiah 8:1-12)
December 2, 2018Nostalgia ("White Christmas")(Exodus 16:1-3)